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My Country: The New Age: Episode 10

We’re beginning to catch up to where the show started, and all the pieces are falling into place, leading us to the final battle between the deadly enemies who used to be the best of friends. A devastating loss cements their deviated paths, and their actions will affect the future of their entire country.

 
EPISODE 10 RECAP

On Lord Nam’s orders, palace guards pursue Hwi and Yeon, and one of them pierces Yeon through the chest with his sword when Hwi’s arrow is just a second too late. Hwi catches Yeon as she falls, and she gasps that she’s not in pain. She begs Hwi not to suffer anymore because of her, and she looks to Hee-jae, as if asking her to watch over him.

Yeon asks about Sun-ho, and Hwi assures her that he’s fine. His friends arrive in time to hear Yeon tell Hwi that she was happy to be his sister, and then she’s gone. Time stops, and Hwi looks confused for a long moment, as if he can’t understand what’s happening. He sobs Yeon’s name over and over, then he throws back his head and howls.

Suddenly, Hwi’s face goes blank, and something dark and hard enters his eyes. He gently lays Yeon down and picks up the guard’s dropped sword. Hee-jae begs him not to do what he’s thinking or he’ll die, but he doesn’t acknowledge her, he just starts running.

In town, he steals the first horse he sees and gallops straight to Lord Nam’s home. Before he can attack Lord Nam, Hwi collapses, desperately sick from his festering stab wound. Lord Nam reveals that the dagger’s blade was poisoned, and when Hwi screams wordlessly, he croons that Hwi is the one who got Yeon killed by breaking his promise.

Hwi asks why Yeon died if he’s the one who broke the promise, and Lord Nam says it’s because this is more painful. He picks up Hwi’s dropped sword, saying that he’s trampled on the corpses of countless enemies, and asks how Hwi could possibly believe he can take him down.

He reminds Hwi how he brought him his father’s body and begged him to bury it, and asks who will bury Yeon if he dies. He raises the sword… and a voice bellows for him to stop. Ohthankgoodness, it’s Bang-won, who threatens to kill Lord Nam if he doesn’t drop the sword.

Lord Nam asks why Bang-won would risk his life for Hwi. Bang-won says simply, “He is my man. He protected me, so now I must protect him.” Lord Nam lowers his sword, although he makes it clear that it’s only because Bang-won outranks him. Bang-won tells Lord Nam that if he lays a finger on Hwi, “I will shred you to pieces with all the swords that I own. This is how I protect my people, and how I live.”

In a flashback, we see Hwi’s father, Seo Geom, testing a young Bang-won in swordsmanship. He decides that Bang-won isn’t qualified to be his student, and when Bang-won says he’s only a “pretty good” swordsman, he offers to prove just how good he is. He has Bang-won shoot arrows at him, which he dodges while running at Bang-won until he’s close enough to knock the bow from his hands.

He slams his practice sword into Bang-won’s stomach, then asks why he didn’t try to avoid the blow. Bang-won says that he didn’t think Seo Geom would accept him as his student if he did, and Seo Geom relents. Bang-won asks if he’s his first student, but Seo Geom says that his first student is his son, and Bang-won admits that he’s jealous of that boy.

As Hwi lies unconscious outside Lord Nam’s home, his friends catch up and check that he’s alive. Chi-do tells Bang-won that they’ll take care of him, and Bang-won says to make sure Hwi recovers.

At the hideout, Moon-bok is horrified by how much Hwi’s stab wound has worsened. He identifies the poison as venom from a deadly pit viper, and Chi-do says that they have to save Hwi no matter what.

Hee-jae is still with Yeon’s body when Sun-ho finishes fighting the remaining guards and stumbles to the meeting place. He looks at Hee-jae questioningly, as if he can’t believe what his eyes are telling him, and she tells him, “Yeon waited for you until her last breath.” Sun-ho collapses, sobbing, his grief every bit as intense and palpable as Hwi’s.

By the time Hee-jae makes it back to the hideout, Moon-bok is finishing up surgery on Hwi’s wound. She asks if he’ll live, but Moon-bok says that’s up to him. She stays up with him, and at one point in the night Hwi wakes and tries to get to his sword. His hands are too weak to hold it, and he screams again, half-delirious from pain and grief. Kneeling beside him, Hee-jae says that before he looks for vengeance, they need to see Yeon off properly.

In the morning, Hwi is somewhat recovered. He says goodbye to Yeon alone, and as he sobs, he remembers how he bought her those too-big shoes years ago. He slides them onto her feet, where they now fit, and he tells her that he hopes they take her to a good place where she can see everything she always wanted to see.

They build a pyre, and as Yeon’s body is burned, Hee-jae looks very worried for Hwi. Sun-ho watches from a distance as Hwi scatters Yeon’s ashes into the river. At home, he goes to Yeon’s old room, where he finds a piece of embroidery with his name and a crane. He recalls the time Yeon told him to cry on her shoulder if he needs to cry, and his sorrow overwhelms him.

At the palace, Queen Sindeok sees a royal physician for an illness that she’s been covering up for quite some time. She asks how much time she has left, and his silence speaks louder than words. Later, she hosts a tea party for the royal ministers, but only Lord Nam attends.

She orders Lord Nam to summon them, but he grumbles that he’s been royally forbidden from associating with the crown prince, so his supporters are distancing themselves from him, and the others have joined with Bang-won. She tosses a list of the ministers’ weaknesses at him and orders him to win them back.

Lord Nam rips up the list and says that the only way Bang-seok will gain the throne is for her to kneel to Bang-won, letting the king and the people see her as a mother willing to do anything to save her son. Lord Nam says it will buy her time for Bang-seok to grow up and him to regain power. He adds that it’s the best use of what little time she has left, revealing that he knows she’s dying.

The queen goes to Bang-won’s home on the anniversary of his mother’s death, claiming that she came to pay her respects. She refers to Bang-won’s mother as a queen, and he reminds her coldly that she’s the one who said his mother couldn’t be honored as a queen since she died before the new country was founded.

Queen Sindeok claims that she was only following custom, and Bang-won asks if that’s the same custom that allows a concubine to become queen and an illegitimate son to become crown prince. The queen says that she’s asked King Taejo to make Bang-won one of the founding contributors, and she promises to be a good mother to Bang-won in the future.

He asks if a good mother would try to assassinate her son. There’s nothing that Queen Sindeok can say to that, so she drops to her knees and pleads for another chance. Bang-won tells her that if she admits her wrongdoings in front of the people and steps down as queen, then he’ll simply have Bang-seok deposed and not killed.

She snaps at him angrily, and Bang-won says that she only cares about Bang-seok, but he’s willing to cause a bloodbath to create a strong foundation for the kingdom, “So don’t you dare denounce me.” The queen gasps incredulously that he’d still kill her son even after she begs for mercy.

Hwa-wol brings some supplies to Hee-jae at the hideout, and Hee-jae can tell by her expression that something is wrong. They run together back to Ihwaru, where Lady Seo is obviously on her deathbed (though she’s still strong enough to fuss at Hwa-wol for not keeping a secret, awww). Lady Seo says weakly that she’s going to a lovely place where she doesn’t have to wear a heavy hairpiece or worry about Ihwaru, the place where her old friend, Hee-jae’s mother, is waiting for her.

She tells Hee-jae that when she meets her mother, she’ll tell her that her daughter grew up to be a fine, beautiful woman, and Hee-jae breaks down in tears. Lady Seo asks to sit up, and she gives Hee-jae a letter. Hee-jae reads it out loud — it’s an official document naming her as head of Ihwaru, and asking the employees to support her and protect Ihwaru. Before Hee-jae finishes reading, Lady Seo slumps over, and they realize that she’s passed on.

Overcome by grief over Yeon’s death, Sun-ho tries to obtain drugs to help him forget the loss of the one person who liked and trusted him. Sung-rok tosses Sun-ho his sword in disgust, and the next day, Sun-ho stands in front of his father, sword at his side and the embroidery that Yeon made tied to its scabbard.

He says that he must have looked ridiculous, running around like a silly boy. He says that he wants a world where all death is meaningless: “I will rise to the top of that world and look down as you die a meaningless death.” Lord Nam actually looks impressed, saying that Sun-ho has finally overcome his mother’s lowly blood.

The hideout is empty when Hee-jae eventually returns. Hwi is at the beach where they scattered Yeon’s ashes, and he walks into the water, intending to end his pain. But a tiny butterfly flits over to land on his shoulder, and Hwi nods, saying, “Okay, Yeon. I’ll stay a little longer. Just a little longer.”

When Hee-jae arrives at the riverbank, Hwi is gone.

Six years later, 1398. The First Strife of the Princes

Bang-won has finally disbanded his private army, but Lord Nam tells his followers that Bang-won could still attack at any moment. He believes that the king should abdicate the throne to Bang-seok, so he’s had his men pledge loyalty to the crown prince in writing, and he hatches a plan to dethrone King Taejo.

A mysterious man in black attacks three men in the dark of night. He kills them and steals the golden vases they were carrying, which are stamped with Lord Nam’s familiar flower emblem.

Bang-won and Lord Nam visit with the king, who’s heard about Lord Nam’s nickname of “king in a gat.” Lord Nam tells him it’s just a rumor, but Bang-won pipes up that Lord Nam is gaining a lot of powerful followers. Lord Nam hits back, saying that he heard a rumor that Bang-won will be the next king, and Bang-won replies with the equivalent of “He who said it, spread it.”

King Taejo warns them that he’s not planning to die, and that if he hears any talk of abdication, that person’s entire family will be torn to pieces. Outside, Bang-won sighs that the king should live a long life on the throne, and that the thought must make Lord Nam nervous.

Lord Nam is informed that a second group of men carrying golden vases were killed and the vases stolen. He thinks there’s a leak among his closest followers, and the only one not in the room is the Assistant Director of the Privy Council. That’s because he’s been killed by Sun-ho, who brings his bloody ID back to Lord Nam and says he wants to finish this himself.

He knows that there’s a third shipment of golden vases coming in from Ming today, and that another slaughter will probably happen. Lord Nam tells him not to worry about it, but Sun-ho says he has to if they’re going to be successful at dethroning the king.

Bang-won waits to talk to Sun-ho, and he notes that Sun-ho is turning out just like his father — willing to trample whoever gets in the way of his quest for power, even his best friend and his sister. Sun-ho retorts that he and Bang-won are a lot alike… they both plan to kill their fathers and take their power. Bang-won says that he would never kill his father, and Sun-ho grins that maybe they’re different after all.

That night, a group of slave traders lock several women in a shed at the docks, planning to have them transported to Ming for sale. They have the gold vases stored there too, and they figure that on a stormy night like this, only a crazy person would attack them.

Right on cue, the crazy person arrives… Hwi, who tells them calmly that none of them will survive before killing them all within seconds. Inside the shed, he tosses the women a knife to cut their ropes. One of the women stops to nod her thanks to Hwi before leaving with the others.

As he’s dragging away the crate of vases, Hwi hears something that sends him hiding in a corner. Sun-ho enters the shed, and the two fight in the dark. They both execute a unique move they’ve used on each other before, giving them a clue as to who they may be fighting. Hwi slices Sun-ho’s torso just enough to give him time to grab the crate of vases and run.

Lord Nam learns that the vases were stolen again, and that the Minister of Military Affairs was killed in the attack. He’s livid, needing those gold vases for a blood ceremony pledging allegiance to the royal family.

Hwi’s friends have all moved up in the world in the last few years. Moon-bok is an army physician, and OMG, his teeth are gorgeous! Jang Beom is a high-ranking officer, and Chi-do tests prospective soldiers to determine who is accepted into the ranks. Cheonga comes to harass Moon-bok and Jang Beom periodically, just to remind them that he’s watching them.

Bang-won’s brother Bang-gan visits Moon-bok and Jang Beom, and tells them to let Hwi know he wants to talk to him. He goes in to speak to Bang-won privately, bringing a gift that he claims is a valuable hundred-year-old wild ginseng, but Bang-won recognizes it as balloon flower root.

Bang-gan is curious about what Bang-won knows about Lord Nam’s disappearing gold vases, as he notices a locked box in the corner of the room. Bang-won just tells Bang-gan to mind his own business and disband his private army before the king has him executed. He offers to ensure Bang-gan’s survival, if only he kneels to him.

Moon-bok visits the new location of Ihwaru, which is larger and grander than the old one. He finds Hwa-wol, who doesn’t recognize him at first, so he shows her his fancy new toothbrush and flashes his pearly whites at her. Hwa-wol swoons, noticing that Moon-bok is actually pretty cute now that he’s clean and his breath smells nice.

She takes tea in to Hee-jae, who is entertaining a couple of female guests. She mentions Lord Nam and how she’s gotten rid of all his political opponents, and Hwa-wol casually mentions the way Hee-jae quelled gossip about one of the ladies’ many affairs and settled the other’s gambling debts.

One lady (they’re probably wives of high-ranked officials) asks what she wants, and Hee-jae says she wants control of the signal fire soldiers and policies of the Ministry of War. The lady says it’s an unimportant post, but Hee-jae counters that sometimes, even an unimportant post becomes important.

Later, Hee-jae sights Hwi in the marketplace. He also sees her, and for a moment they stare at each other, both looking infinitely sad. Then Hwi hardens his expression and walks by without glancing at Hee-jae again.

Lord Nam is angry that the person stealing the golden vases still hasn’t been caught. He finds a box on his desk, and inside are a single golden vase and a letter instructing him to come to the bamboo grove this afternoon to meet the culprit.

Meanwhile, Sung-rok catches the woman that Hwi freed on the night he fought with Sun-ho, and brings her to Sun-ho. He has her describe the man she saw to an artist, but the resulting sketch doesn’t look familiar. Sun-ho tells her that she has one more chance to tell the truth or her whole family will be slaughtered, and this time, the artist’s drawing is obviously Hwi.

Lord Nam goes to the bamboo grove that afternoon with several guards, but they’re surrounded by armed men so Lord Nam is forced to go on alone. He approaches the man waiting in the grove, and when he turns around, Lord Nam gapes to see Hwi alive.

 
COMMENTS

I can feel it coming — the blood, the death, and allll the heartbreak. Hwi and Sun-ho are both careening towards destruction, which was exactly my fear after Yeon was killed. Yeon’s death was a devastating blow to everyone who loved her, and a lot has changed since then, and not in good ways. And even though it’s been years now, her murder was just the beginning of an upcoming slaughter that will change history and the lives of an entire people.

I’m a bit confused again, this time by whatever is going on with the golden vases and why Hwi is stealing them, but here’s what I took from it: The golden vases are for an upcoming ceremony, and from Hee-jae’s comment about Lord Nam being “confirmed,” I think that’s what the ceremony is for. Without the vases, the ceremony can’t happen, and the king’s confidence in Lord Nam will be damaged. Hwi is probably stealing the vases on Bang-won’s behalf, to break the relationship between Lord Nam and the royal family, while Sun-ho is trying to stop the thefts. What I don’t understand is how the golden vases feature in Lord Nam’s plans to dethrone King Taejo.

I have to stop here to give all the credit to Ahn Nae-sang for his portrayal of Lord Nam. To be honest, he’s always been an actor I could give or take in any given role, though I see him often because he’s in a lot of my favorite dramas (and I just now remembered that he acted with Yang Se-jong in Temperature of Love!). But here he’s taken a character that could easily have been a mustache-twirling stereotype, because Lord Nam is pretty unrelentingly horrible, and he’s given Lord Nam a lot of character and nuance that make him not just evil, but interestingly evil. He makes these wonderful microexpressions where you can read exactly what Lord Nam is thinking, like when Bang-won ordered him not to kill Hwi, and his eyes darted around like he was both confused, and also quickly weighing his options.

But anyway, it’s turned out exactly as I feared — without Yeon to give Hwi and Sun-ho something innocent and pure to protect and cherish, they’ve both gone off the deep end. I wasn’t surprised that they both tried to end their pain, though in different ways, and I expected them to realize that they still have a reason to live, if only to get revenge. I am sad that they have gone such different ways when they really should be working together to take down Lord Nam. They may not be friends anymore, but I don’t think that either of them wants to be enemies, either. I do think that their reluctance to kill each other when they fought sheds some light on the scene from the top of the series, where they have their deadly clash. Hwi says that he’s there to kill Lord Nam, and Sun-ho retorts that he can’t let him do that, but I have a feeling that Sun-ho doesn’t mean, “I can’t let you kill my father.” I think he means, “I can’t let you kill my father, because I’m going to.” The one thing that is clear is that Hwi and Sun-ho still care about each other enough that they don’t want each other dead. When they fought, Hwi didn’t kill Sun-ho when he could have, while Sun-ho looks devastated to have confirmation that Hwi is, in fact, the man he clashed swords with that night, and I’m anxious just thinking about what he’s going to do with that information.

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“I can’t let you kill my father, because I’m going to.”

This would be one of the *dumber* reasons for two friends who want each other to live to have fight to the death. If dumb isn’t the right word, what is? I understand why SH wants certain conditions and kind of death for Lord Nam, but still...

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I think that's where they are going, and yes, DUMB. Why not work out an agreement on which pieces of Lord Nam which one of them gets to cut off? Or toss a coin to see gets to do it all?

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I guess regardless of what Sun Ho said, Lord Nam is still his father, and Hwi could not ask his friend to kilm his own father. On the other hand, I think Hwi already lost trust in Sun Ho due to betrayal.

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Noble idiocy?

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Or maybe he wants to do it for his mother.

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I was truly curious if he would have the guts to kill him if the moment came and all his plans went his way...I actually doubt it,as much as he wants him dead i don't think he would have killed him no matter what he says...Think he,without knowing it is using this excuses to wait for that big moment just so he can't do it as chances he had lots of them...

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Neither Sun-ho nor Hwi are willing to kill the other, in my opinion. Which is why I think fighting over who kills Lord Nam is just DUMB!

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Yes to everything @lollypip.

Anyone else wondering how big this town is and how everyone gets around so fast? Like, Hwi got to the Nam residence before Sun-ho even made it to the river's edge.

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This drama is set in Joseon's new capital Hanyang (Seoul) which was designed by Sambong including Gyeongbokgung Palace where King Taejo and the crown prince are residing.
Bang-won and his brother's lived outside of the palace. The ministers would be living close to the palace since the government official business etc is taken place inside the palace.
The distance between the palace and the Han river is about 4 miles.

Episode 45 of JEONG DO-YEON shows the layout of the capital and the blue print of Gyeongbokgung palace. Sambong was a real genius!

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I don't have a problem with how fast people get around in the drama. The river was close enough and the mountain where Hwi lived with his sister was not too far from the city.

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Well. That all makes sense, doesn't it? And here I thought it was a case of dramaland magic where distance doesn't impact estimated time of arrival if the movement of the plot is at stake. :)

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I think this PD has a good mental picture of the capital's layout. While the palace maybe 4 miles to the river. Lord Nam's resident might be closer.
The palace is surrounded by Mount Bugaksan and Mount Namsan. That would put Hwi and his sister in close distance with everyone in the capital.
Ihwaru would be in the heart of the capital too at the entertainment district.

The palace has such a sad history from the very beginning and all the way to the Japanese Occupation era.

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I may be in the minority here but I blame the late queen...

King probably had several reasons for naming his youngest son as crown prince, but I'll never believe that pillow talk wasn't one of the biggest ones (in both the drama and history). But she should have known that putting the kid ahead of older half brothers would lead to disputes and likely the death of any credible claimants except the final winner.

FWIW, putting younger ahead of older half brothers had been done before, and it tends not to end well.

Read up on the brief Later Three Kingdoms period in Korea when Silla lost its grip, until Goryeo won out. The founder of Later Baekje named his youngest son as successor over the 3 older ones (pillow-talk with younger 2nd wife again?!). So the older sons launched a coup, killed their half-brother, and put the king/founder under house arrest. Founder then escaped and defected to the rival Goryeo, which helped Goryeo finish off Later Baekje.

As an aside, founders father had for a time led a smaller kingdom but had previously joined Goryeo. So, father/son kings of separate kingdoms both went over to the same other kingdom (!).

You can't make this stuff up. Or if you did, netizens would criticize you for re-using the same "2nd-wife / younger-son-heir / older-son-kills-younger-half-bother" plot in two successive kdramas.

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Queen may be the one who nags, but King was the one with authority and decision power. And he didn't chose Bang Seok because Queen asked him to, but because he is the youngest. I don't think we can put this entirely on her Highness.

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He just wanted to be on the throne longer. The Queen wouldn't have had to persuade him I think.

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Bang Seok being youngest is the reason in this drama, but history-wise that theory seems iffy -- kings don't have to give up power just because they have a crown prince who has come of age. I'm sticking with my pillow talk theory for the real reason.

Everything could have been calm and undramatic if new queen had just whispered to hubby that he should posthumously promote first wife to queen and let first-wife's kids remain senior. Doing that would have saved 2nd queen's sons' lives. But 2nd-wives / new queens rarely do that, in fact they often angle for the queen position specifically because they (and their families) hope she will become the mother of the next king.

Too bad we didn't have a female historian documenting the pillow talk. Whoops, wrong drama. But just because it wasn't written down and didn't get into the official record doesn't mean it didn't happen.

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The queen is more sympathetic in this drama imo. She is more of a desperate mother who is trying to save her son and his position.
A queen of Joseon will never bow to her step child. Only in dramas lol.

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True. Her desperation probably intensified Bangwon’s animosity toward her. What she had done to Bangwon’s mother and how the King treats her is all because of her. The Queen is manipulative, greedy and too impatient. Which didn’t work in her favor since she didn’t foresee getting sick and dying so soon.

I’m curious as to what Bangwon’s relationship with King Taejo was like. His conversation with SunHo reveals he could not kill his father, a contrast to SunHo’s sentiment.

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@mei123db

Bang-won wouldn't be able to rule under a Neo Confucian country if he kill his own father. It would be worst than killing Poeun which was one of the reason why he wasn't considered to be the crown prince.

He hated his step-mother but he tried to mend his relationship with his father.

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@kiara this info on neo Confucianism is interesting. You’ve given me food for thought and I keep going to certain scenes with Bangwon and SunHo in episode 12 whether this belief will hold ground for them or not. The way Bangwon reacted was intriguing. I can’t wait to dig into that bit.

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She was just bent on saving his position than his life. Bang-won said he'd spare his life if he stepped down as crown prince

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I think the writer purposely kept the queen's role in helping Taejo's transition from general to king in the dark to make him more of a power hungry king like you said in earlier episodes.
Unfortunately this writer is not as sharp as NOKDU FLOWER'S writer.
Choosing the youngest because he wants to rule longer doesn't make much sense.

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Does history tell us why the King chose his youngest son to be the crown prince? The writer chose to portray the king as power hungry, so it makes sense that he would want to hold on to his power as long as possible.

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IIRC Taejo did but his first choice was #7 Yi Bang-beon. (Bang-seok's older brother). I believe the ministers didn't think he was suitable due to his unruly behavior so Bang-seok became the crown prince.

This whole crown prince selection was Taejo's doing. He was determined to pick the crown prince from his beloved wife's children.

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The reasoning behind the drama doesn't make much sense. The king doesn't need to step down just because the crown prince is older. He can rule until he dies if he choose to.

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You are not in the minority. Bang-won himself had said that his step-mother is the one that his father loves most. (This is historically correct too). He was also up front with his father for letting a woman involved in the crown prince selection.

This is a translated article from the Annals.

"Shindok, a daughter of Kang Yun-song, a ranking Koryo Kingdom official, was deeply loved by King Taejo. And that relationship irked King Taejong, who had to witness his own father’s unsparing affection for his stepmother.

Shindok rode a wave of revolutionary forces that underpinned the shift of power from Koryo to Choson. She monopolized the attention of King Taejo and maximized the turbulent situation to expand her political influence.

Few women had such knack for political maneuvering. Pulling strings as a member of Koryo’s aristocracy, Shindok persuaded key Koryo officials to pledge allegiance to Choson’s founder, King Taejo.

Once the new nation was built, she waged a political battle to have her son Pang-sok appointed as crown prince, defying the festering sentiment of Queen Shinui’s sons, including Pang-won, who later became King Taejong."

https://www.sungjinyang.com/king-taejong-resentment-against-stepmother/

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Another thing that doesn't make sense to me is Bang-won's claim that the queen's sons were born out of wedlock.

First of all she comes from one of Goryeo's aristocracy families and Yi Seong-gye is a country bumpkin from the northern border. She was above him in rank but he had military power.

I find it hard to believe that the queen's father would allow a relationship between his daughter and Yi Seong-gye without a proper marriage first. Having two sons out of wedlock would have ruined her reputation.

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Gaaahh, the carnage in this show is hair-raising 😵

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Yeah this show tests my voilence threshold, heh.

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The way Hwi's and Sun-ho's eyes just became dead after Yeon died. Even during the war despite the dismal conditions you can still see that flicker of life in them, but in this episode their eyes are just dead.

I love that we get some cute interlude with Mun-bok and Hwa-wol to cut through the all heavy stuff.

I don't understand why despite knowing how Bang-won is as an individual, the King, ministers, the Queen, etc. still treated him the way they did. Why provoke his anger? Why stoke his resentment? Is it a matter of hubris? Or did they think that if he's being deprived of opportunities he will give up soon enough? (Which is contrary to what the King always tell Bang-won i.e. I know you if you can't reach it you'll kill your way towards it, something along those lines.)

And lol, the Crown Prince has now grown up here.

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Is it a spoiler to mention something that has been heavily foreshadowed AND is straight from the well-known history??

Let's just say they guy playing grown-up Crown Prince didn't need a long-term contract :)

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That’s a good description of SunHo and Hwi. I have the same observation on how they suddenly seem to turn almost lifeless. I read someone mention about the eyes that turned “soulless” and I think that was a more apt description.

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It’s as I predicted and feared 😰😰 Both men have gone off the deep end and have become (self) destructive in their own ways after the death of Yeon 😭😭😭

There are many differences between our 2 guys as there are just as many commonalities, but what I find the most interesting is their different approach in how they choose to fight tooth-n-nail to stay alive in order to complete the task at hand (whatever it may be:
Sun Ho goes about it himself because all he really has is himself, but Hwi chooses to go about it himself even when he has a band of supporters behind him (which makes my blood boil b/c I find this approach actually selfish and not noble AT ALL 🙄🙄🙄🙄)

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I want to take a moment to remember Madame Seo. That was a great lost to Ihwaru and to this drama. 🥺😢

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I am sad that my favorite female characters are both gone now. Saw it coming but still.

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I cried a lot during the first half of this episode. It's was so heartbreaking to see them break down over Yeon's death. It has caused both Hwi and especially Sun Ho to become even more ruthless. Each wants to destroy Lord Nam in their own way yet they do care about each other. If only they worked together instead of against each other, sigh. (I know why not but still).
When Bang Won stopped Lord Nam from killing Hwi I gave a little 'yay'. And heh, the scene with Moon Bok and Hwa Wol was like a Joseon Era Toothbrush Ad.

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+1
Sun-ho's grief, first when he found Yeon, and later in that dark room, all alone and unable to mourn with anyone, really got to me. His decision to "make all deaths meaningless" though... sigh. I had hoped he'd say something like ""never lose someone I love again", except he has no one else! He's gone the self-destructive nihilistic route, as well as Hwi. The only difference is that Hwi has several people who love him, but he doesn't seem to appreciate them very much.

I laughed so much at Joseon Era Toothbrush Ad.

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This was a very emotional and intense episode and a turning point for the 2 young leads and I think they both delivered raw emotions of their pain and grief. I understand how everyone sympathize with SunHo’s case as I do see what he is going through. I don’t get why everyone keeps getting on Hwi’s case lol. I can understand his situation from an older sibling point of view and wanting to protect dear ones and friends from harm. And his fear of more collateral damage arising from being associated with him.

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Hwi's brand of noble idiocy is seen as ungrateful when compared to Sun Ho. I get where Hwi is coming from too, but it's only because my love for Yang Se Jong > Wo Do Hwan. 😋

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I’m not sure I agree. I don’t think he’s being ungrateful..oh well. I’m with you on YSJ. It’s been emotionally draining to see him in this role. I had to watch bits of Temperature of Love the other day just to shake off the sadness and get some YSJ brightness lol

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I understand them both and mostly feel bad for Hwi except in this episode I felt worse for Sun Ho. He really doesn't have anyone and his scenes this episode were more heartbreaking. I also don't get why everyone thinks Hwi is ungrateful though. I mean his sister who he loved very much died. It was for her he tried to stay alive in Liaodong. But that doesn't mean he doesn't care for his friends.

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@amy1009
Thank you. You said it better than I could 🥰

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@mei123db My issue with Hwi has always been his bad hair. I had to stare at his pictures from Saimdang to wash that image off my head. :P
Duel is my go-to drama for Yang Se Jong. He is simply phenomenal in that one.

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@msrabbit After all he’s been through, he’s entitled to a bad hair day! I actually didn’t mind. I thought it suits his character. I hadn’t seen Saimdang so I have no point of comparison.

Just wanted to add, I’ve been reading positive comments on Duel. I also checked out Saimdang photos —and I see what you mean! ☺️

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@msrabbit @mei123db I didn't call Hwi ungrateful. I said "he doesn't seem to appreciate the people around him that much". I think he simply does not realise how dear he is to his friends.

I understand that Hwi wants to avoid dragging them into his troubles, but risking his neck every day and not listening to their pleas to survive suggests that he doesn't care if he lives or dies, or if anyone will mourn his death. I'm looking at this from the perspective of his Liadong Campaign buddies, who regard him as family.

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@wishfultoki
It’s all good Toki. I see where you’re coming from. I know Hwi will get there too.

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This I agree with. He really doesn't care if he lives or dies. And it has made him not notice how important he is to others.

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I agree with you that many people love Hwi, but he doesn't care though he appreciates their concern and sacrifice. His world has Yeon only, after Yeon died, his world collapses and even Hae-Jae cannot save him.

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The new Ihwaru looks grand! And Moon-bok's teeth, aaaahhh, cute, I didn't have any hope for him, that's the power of brushing everyday, yiii!
My minor gripe with this episode is, once again, Hwi's secret GPS tracker, that this time worked just on time for Bangwon to find him in Nam's house. That doesn't make any sense to me. He came running from Yeon's death scene into the city, how would Bangwon know his whereabouts?
This said, seeing Hwi and Sunho (not) coping with Yeon's death just broke my heart, but the show managed to factor in good action scenes, a dash of humor and conspiracy. Conspiracy, as usual, comes without any details... this show never explains key politics (like, I would like to see Sambong and get to hear more about Poneun) but well, I'm on board!

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I wonder if someone alerted Bang-won to save Hwi. He seems to have eyes/spies everywhere.

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I have yet to watch other dramas on this era, but for me this show works best if considered a complement of SIX FLYING DRAGONS. Sambong, Poeun and key politics are all part of that story.

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That's what happen when they try to cover so much of the history in less than 20 episodes. This time period needs more than that since it involves 7 kings and so many well known scholars.
I think they should've just concentrate on the events leading up to the fall of Goryeo or start from the strife of the princes.

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"He is my man" - Bang-won has the coolest lines in this drama.

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No matter how cool the lines are, it is in the delivery. And how and where does Jang Hyuk get that impactful style? Oh man !!! He is just one of a kind.

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I know people are mixed about the OTP but I, for one, am so glad Hwi has someone to look to after his vengeance is finished. (If he survives...)

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A question for beanies... Will Sun-ho be alive at the end of this drama?

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I hope so, but due to kdramaland rules, leads with sad back story in saeguk rarely survived (See Warrior Baek Dong Soo, Moon that Embraces The Sun, Moonlight Drawn by Cloud).

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Every sageuk has a Tragic Swordsman, and Seon Ho is the one in this drama. As much as I hope for the opposite, I think he is doomed. The only thing I can hope for is a reconciliation between him and Hwi.

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I want to see Seon Ho and Hwi fly kites again.

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Yeon gave him shoes. I don't have much hope.

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The Shoes of Doom...

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My guess is both Hwi and SH will be dead at the end. Perhaps HJ will survive? Anyway the only person guaranteed not to die will be BW coz we all know from history he gets to be the king.

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Of the young people, HJ will survive, because I don't care much about her.

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Thanks for the recap @lollypip!

The episode was flowing nicely until the time skip. I was confused why Hwi's enemies thought he'd died since they didn't actually see him dead or look for his grave. Maybe I've seen too many characters fall of Cliff of Non-Doom and I've become used to dramatic disappearances, but I didn't get the impression that Hwi was in mortal peril when he walked into the lake. Sorry for the rambling. I'm not sure why that disappearance and "gasp, he's alive!" didn't work for me.

I'm also confused about Hee-jae. She's become the head of Ihwaru and she's been busy doing this? "She mentions Lord Nam and how she’s gotten rid of all his political opponents".

What? Does this mean she's been pretending to help Lord Nam gain power, just to infiltrate key posts like in the Ministry of War? That would be awesome! But if I'm right, why don't we get much insight into these cunning plans?

Before the time skip Nam was in a pretty bad situation, muzzled by the king and ordered to stay away from the Crown Prince, so that he even refused to help the dying Queen. I did not get any hints that Hee-Jae (who's working for Bang-won whether she wants to or not, all for the love of Hwi) planned to raise Nam up in order to destroy him later. That tactic doesn't usually work anyway. So I'm confused about Hee-jae's claim. (I'm confused about a lot of things it seems).

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They probably thought Hwi died due to the deadly poison and the fact that they haven't seen him in six years.

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And they didn't know Hwi has a genius Doc as friend.

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I know, but after being so thorough with everything else, it was careless of Nam to just assume that Hwi died. He last saw him taken under Bang Won's wing, which should have given him pause for thought.

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The 6 year time jump was a bit jarring. I just assumed Chief Park, Mun Bok and Jeong Beom had been working under Bangwon’s camp. Hwi probably worked undercover. Until that sketch provided evidence of his presence.

I don’t know what Lord Nam was thinking lol. I agree he was careless in that aspect.

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Lord Nam does not think much of Hwi. He didn't really see Hwi as a threat. His real opponent is Bang Won. I doubt he really cares whether Hwi lives or not.

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@msrabbit
Lord Nam has a giant blind spot with respect to Hwi. Nam is so busy looking down his nose at Hwi that he missed Bang-won’s respect for Hwi. That should have been enough to tell Lord Nam that Hwi was dangerous.

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I blame it on them lessening the number of episodes. Maybe then things would have made sense
There are a lot of things they could have shown. They skipped on things that could have made things easier to understand. They could have shown more about the Queen and what happened to her. I wanted Hae Jee to have more to do but they showed nothing of what she has done or how she got where she is and I am disappointed. It's like we are just expected to just accept it.

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The whole Hee Jae characterization and development is weird. We discussed that in previous episode recap. She obviously had done more than putting her hair up and having tea with noble ladies. But for some reasons, the show didn't bother to give us more than a few cryptic lines.

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And now our number of female characters in this drama has decreased to basically zilch. :(

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We’re seeing just the action part of a complex story that should have included espionage, intrigue, and character growth arcs from naive youth to mature top level players at the game of king maker.

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100% in agreement. Too much action and not enough character development from our youth.
I thought this show was about them?

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I'm not sure Hui-jae got rid of Nam's political opponents, but maybe replaced a number of his allies and fellow advisors with more compliant ministers. In the uncut version, she works with Hwi to accomplish this, which would explain how Hwi knew the importance of the golden vases and who to kill to get them.

This show should have been at least 16 to 24 episodes. It would have benefitted from a stronger, more contemplative characterization of Hui-jae. I'd die to see her go one-on-one with Bang-won.

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What? Is there an uncut version? How do you know Hee-jae worked with Hwi in the Golden Vases Heist?

Agree with you on the wish for a longer drama.

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" I'm not sure why that disappearance and "gasp, he's alive!" didn't work for me."

So much is happening behind the scenes and trying to figure it out is exhausting.

I just thought that he somehow ended up in Ming (China) and became a peddler of some sort like the usual defeated leading characters in most sageuks lol.
Should we call it the river of non doom?

I'm not sure what Hee-jae was doing beside getting a new do.
If she was getting rid of Lord Nam's opponents then she was basically helping him? I'm confused.

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Maybe HJ is really playing both sides as a "neutral" party.

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I sure hope so.

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Well, that would be amazing, but it doesn't look like it right now.

I don't know if I should be sad or relieved that you are confused too @kiara! Maybe something was lost in translation because that whole exchange is very ambiguous. I just rewatched it.

First Hee-jae casually mentions that Nam is being considered as a replacement of the minister of military affairs (who died? was killed? I forget). One lady doesn't seem to like Nam, so Hee-jae asks if she should get rid of him. The lady becomes nervous. Hee-jae threatens the ladies by crowing about her power ("I already got rid of all his political opponents"). Hwa-wol adds that Hee-jae also settled the ladies' gambling debts and hushed up their affairs. In exchange for her silence, Hee-jae asks for signal-fire and policies of the Ministry of War. End of conversation.

It would help if we knew who those ladies were (ie: whose husbands) and how they would have influence in obtaining these posts for Hee-jae.

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I agree with you. The conversation is confusing. Hee Jae only used yonggam. It makes me think that maybe she meant that she got rid of the lady's husband's opponents and thus making the husband now in the position to give her that advantage over signal-fire. The "his opponents" here does not refer to Lord Nam's. Lord Nam just piled up/gained power all on his own in that 6 years.

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We have to assume that these women are well connected and/or have great influence. Hee Jae is wielding her power showing them what she wants them to see, then using them to get what she really wants (which will help Hwi, and ultimately Bang Won) without revealing who she's really helping.

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@msrabbit I do believe you’re right! It wouldn’t be the first time I’ve been misled by subtitles. It does seem like she’s referring to the husband of the lady, not Lord Nam.

It makes sense for Hee-Jae to hang out with the wives of ministers she has supported, of course blackmailing them when she can.

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Bang-won antagonizing Sun-ho was a curious move. It seems he was feeling out Sun-ho's loyalty to his father and what, if any, triggers Sun-ho has (one, Hwi). Their interaction neatly summarizes why Sun-ho will never be on Team Bang-won, and why Bang-won would reject his membership application: Bang-won is Neo-Confucianism while Sun-ho took a wrong turn and ended up in early Joseon, instead of the 21st century.

The time skip gave me whiplash. I like this show, but this is the first episode where the shortened episode count shows. One of the qualities of Korean drama is its tendency to let actions breathe, which in turn adds nuance to the plot. MC:NA is doing an admirable job sprinting to the finish, but there's a lot of labored breathing and side stitches.

On Hui-jae: it pains me to say, but she's superfluous. It would have been interesting if she used her position as Spy Master to play both Nam Jeon and Bang-won in order to ensure Hwi survives living between the rock and the hard place, but she hasn't contributed as much to the story as she did the first few episodes. In spite of this, Seolhyun is doing a fine job maintaining Hui-jae's resolve. Her acting has been consistent and, when opposite Yang Se-jong, compelling.

Finally, my bias: sigh. Siiiiiiigggghhhhh. Any time Sun-ho starts talking about drinking lamb's blood out of alligator skulls or something equally hard (i.e. his "Rule the darkness" speech way back in episode 4), I know Hwi is somewhere near. Does it make for wonderful Woo Do-hwan reactions? Yes. Does it make knowing how this friendship will ultimately end more suspenseful? No. It just makes it more tragic, as all unrequited, 80/20 relationships are.

We'll see how this ends, but I think "My Country" has added a new dimension to OTP with the characters of Hwi and Sun-ho. It reminds me of "My Ajusshi", but stripped of the romantic undercurrents (don't @ me).

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I think many of us agree that Hwi and Seon Ho are the OTP. I'm not counting on a happy ending though.

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BTS: Yeon-ah and Sun-ho's new shoes, the queen's final scene, Hwi, Bang-gan and his crew, PD Kim Jin-won always look good behind the camera <3. Best dress PD award from me.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=U2RGdPrgpZQ

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BTS: More Yeon-ah and her bros, Lord Nam is pretty cool in real life lol, Yeon-ah's cremation.

I liked Yeoh-ah's Buddhism funeral since they believe in the after life.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=82Y3sBZXLRo

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